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Crushing Coke - How the security forces conquered Dudus' fortress

Published:Sunday | May 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

A former member of the security forces trained as an explosive expert is the suspected mastermind behind the elaborate defence system established around Tivoli Gardens last week.

He was supported by other persons who had been kicked out of the police force or the Jamaica Defence Force for varying reasons.

The explosives expert could be slapped with several charges after soldiers, who entered Tivoli Gardens on Monday, faced elaborate booby traps and explosive devices never before seen in Jamaica

In the week leading up to the retake of Tivoli Gardens by the security forces, the thugs - it is believed, under the guidance of the former member of the security forces - managed to build and test explosive devices from scratch, using available local material.

According to Sunday Gleaner sources, the devices were similar to those which have been seen on the ground in Afghanistan.

They included bits of steel used as part of a lethal bombing system, LPG cylinders laced with explosives carefully set up as booby traps, Molotov cocktails used as firebombs, and sharpened scrap metals set to mangle the unsuspecting.

Many of these were wired electrically so that they could be triggered with the slightest touch.

Hundreds of gallons of petrol had also been purchased to fuel the resistance.

army of thugs

In addition to the security system, Tivoli Gardens was defended by a small army of thugs. More than 400 of them were reportedly enlisted to the cause.

Travelling from as far away as Montego Bay, St James, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Thomas, they headed to west Kingston.

They were joined by others from neighbouring enclaves who came out to support the man who had risen to the most prominent position in Jamaica's seedy underworld - Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

He had pulled together an army of hardened criminals, some of whom he had to pay thousands of dollars, to take on the armed forces.

The mission was to prevent the execution of an arrest warrant that would begin the process of his extradition to the United States to face drugs and gun charges. Ultimately, Coke wanted to pull

more inner-city communities under the rule of his 'Presidential Click' empire and strengthen his reach across Jamaica.

Among the recruits that were brought to west Kingston were known murderers, petty thieves, gangsters, and persons skilled in military tactics.

The recruits also included persons with computer skills who could download critical information on explosive gadgets and guerilla warfare, as well as individuals with electrical engineering skills who could rig up and operate major explosive apparatus.

Many of the foot soldiers had spent time in prison and were fearless in the face of the law.

As Monday, May 24, drew closer, and it became clearer that an invasion was at hand, the barricades to the community became more extensive.

Old cars, scrap metal, crates, sandbags, barrels and discarded household items were brought in to thicken the blockades, despite appeals from the police for them to be removed.

Sandbags camouflaged concrete slabs with peepholes and the high-rise buildings were prepared as lookout points and fixed with truck tyres to be lit to create smoke screens against helicopter assaults.

Coke, it was believed, had embedded himself in the community, surrounded by his thugs, confident of his safety.

On the outskirts of the community, the Tivoli forces ordered first strike on 14 police stations, two of which were burnt to the ground.

The cops were kept at bay, physically and psychologically, as the thugs seemingly declared 'the Republic of Tivoli' theirs.

For four decades, Tivoli had grown as an adjunct to Jamaica, existing under a different rule of law, defying efforts to bring it in line with the rest of the society.

In the past, efforts to bring Tivoli under control did not get past the periphery.

The move against the lawmen and their facilities was a new dimension in the struggle between Jamaica and the Corporate Area's western belt.

Tempers boiled and steamed as the soldiers moved in.

Faced with insurmountable fire power and a well-thought-out strategy from the security forces, Coke and his inner circle abandoned the men he had recruited, and the women and children who had demonstrated for him. They were to face the onslaught without the leader.

When Tivoli fell, Coke and his inner circle were on the run, over 700 hundred men were detained, 400 of whom had no addresses in Tivoli Gardens.

More than 50 of these men were wanted by the police for various crimes, and a large number of them were listed as persons of interest and under police watch.

So far, some 8,800 rounds of ammunition and 28 guns have been seized by the security forces and 73 civilians confirmed dead.

Among the dead were at least two women, and a few of the bodies were men wearing dresses.